Ki Energy

Ki, Chi, or Qi means energy

The ancients understood that the body was primarily liquids: water and blood. Water becomes active when heated, such as boiling water inside of a pot by placing the pot over a fire. The ancients considered your breath hot, akin to fire. On a cold winter’s day, it’s normal to breath on your hands to warm them up. A deep exhale produces steam against the cold air. 

During Neh Gong Bup, activating the breath (heat) stimulates the blood, generating Ki, which can be translated as life energy. As the blood is “warmed” through the breath, it moves more easily through the body, providing life to our cells. This process can be described by the character for “Ki” (Chi or Qi in Chinese) on the right. 

Breath is an essential element in Moo Duk Kwan training. Our sincere effort in training can be categorized in three distinct areas: Shim Gong or mental effort, Neh Gong or internal effort, and Weh Gong external effort.  

The three work together as follows:

  • Shim Gong is our sincere mental effort in training. The process must start with the right intention to arrive at the right result. This intention is called Uido. If the intent is always focused on the dan jun, we can maintain proper choong shim, or a centered mind. 
  • Neh Gong is our sincere internal effort in training and focuses on breath. The breath comes from the dan jun. As you inhale, the dan jun expands like a bellows, in all directions, not only the front of the body. Direct your mind to the dan jun and imagine your lower spine expanding when you inhale and your dan jun contracting while you exhale. Referring to the character above, breathing heats the dan jun, which cooks the rice, which provides energy to the body. Some techniques require “reverse breathing” where the dan jun contracts on inhale and expands on exhale.
  • Weh Gong is our sincere physical effort in training and focuses around the huri. The huri, or the waist, houses the dan jun and is the focus of our mind intention. Connecting to the earth with a strong jaseh and then shifting and twisting the huri, creates the proper line, speed, and beauty (sun sok mi) of our technique.

Beginning with the right mind intention and focusing on the dan jun creates the proper breathing. The proper breathing provides the energy (ki) to move the body via the huri. Connecting all three results in the right action. 

Moo Do Jaseh


Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh.  Figure 4.
Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh. Figure 4.

“Moo Do” has often been translated as “martial art”. This translation does not convey the rich philosophical roots of our art. The word “Moo” in Korean is based on the Chinese Character 武 and is generally translated as “martial” or “military” but the character also has the meaning of “action”. The character itself is made up of two separate characters “sword” or “spear and “to stop”, “to prohibit”, or “to till”.

The word “Do” is based on Do the Chinese character 道 representing the Tao. “Do” has a board range of meanings: a path or The Path, The Way, a road, direction, principle, truth, morality, reason and skill.

The definition of “Moo Do” is much richer than the usual translation of “martial art.” It is the Way to the skillful action necessary to prevent conflict or war. It is the Path to balance and harmony both within ourselves and the society in which we live. Moo Do also includes the concept of our art being a means to experiencing the Do.


Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan is a living art. We often refer to our art as “Philosophy in Action.” We experience, express, and live this philosophy through our Moo Do Jaseh.

Moo Do Jaseh is the attitude with which we approach our art. It is present in all aspects of our practice. It is apparent in simple things like how we care for our Do Bok and how we treat our Dojang. Our Moo Do Jaseh is both expressed and strengthened through gestures of respect like bowing and saluting the flat; gestures that bring a ceremonial nature to our daily practice.

Moo Do Jaseh originates in our Maum. In Soo Bahk Do, Maum is the fountain of all actions. By itself, the body does not know what to do. The Body is the “What” in the process. It relies on the Maum for direction.

The Maum needs to “breathe”. The Maum breathes through our Moo Do Jaseh in the process of Spiritual Breathing. In this process:

  1. Maum sends “instruction” to the physical body via the Breath and the Shi Sun (eyes). This is the Maum exhaling.
  2. The Mome or the physical body receives these instructions. This is the physical body inhaling.
  3. The Physical Body executes an action based on the instructions of the Maum. This is the physical body exhaling.
  4. The Maum receives the fruits of the action and enjoys the “Positive Ending”. This is the Spirit inhaling.

When the body responds to the Maum, it sets up a feedback loop that nourishes and enriches Maum. The Maum now has an opportunity to empty or fill as needed by the situation. By doing so, the Maum Jaseh will find balance. By participating in this continuous process of Shil and Huh, Filling and Emptying, the Maum becomes alert, enlivened and nourished. It is relaxed, yet responsive to what is required in any given moment.

Whether or not there is a “Positive Ending” depends on our Moo Do Jaseh. At the outset, Shim Kong, Nae Kong, and Weh Kong are separate. With proper Moo Do Jaesh, they unite and become one through Spiritual Breathing. When Spirit, Breath, and Body unite and are in perfect harmony, one experiences the Do.


Maum is the original true “mind” or “spirit” that finds expression when the noise of the normal busy mind is quieted. Giving expression to the Maum through our Moo Do Jaseh relies on three important Moo Do concepts which we will discuss below:

  1. Complementary opposites
  2. Fullness and Emptiness
  3. “Duk” or the Path of Virtue

The Dance of Opposites

In Moo Do philosophy, the guiding principle is to act in accordance with Nature. This starts with an understanding of the concept of complementary opposites. The basic duality is expressed as Um and Yang. These forces are in an unceasing, ever changing interaction with each other, the one being the reason for the other. Why do we inhale? Because we exhale. Why is there Um? Because there is Yang. This is natural. This is the truth of the Do.

In our practice, these forces show up in many ways: Strength-Flexibility; Inhale-Exhale; Emptiness-Fullness; Tension-Relaxation. If they are not in harmony, our Maum Jaseh is disturbed. Out of balance, we experience pain and discomfort. In balance, we are comfortable and at peace.

Opposites necessarily engender a third principle that synthesizes or acts as an intermediary between them. Moo Do philosophy has many such important relationships. Heaven, Earth, with Man as the intermediary in the middle. Within the human being, the relationship is between Spirit/Soul (Shim Kong), Breath (Nae Kong/Ki Kong), and the Physical Body (Weh Kong), where Breath is the intermediary between Spirit and Body. In Korean thought, Spirit and Breath are often considered together under the term Maum.

Through our Moo Do Jaseh, we cultivate balance and harmony between Spirit and Body (between Maum and Mome).

Maum Jaseh is an attitude that cultivates true Yang Ki, strength that is balanced with humility, power that is balanced with wisdom. These can be illustrated with the trigrams for water and fire:

☵ Water is flexible on the outside; firm/strong on the inside

☲ Fire is strong on the outside, flexible and receptive on the inside

Maum and Moo Do Jaseh express themselves through an Indomitable Spirit. This Indomitable Spirit is another name for Shim Kong, representing consistent efforts to align with the Do. The Indomitable Spirit requires both strength and flexibility:

When people practice the Do…if they are always hard they will be impetuous and aggressive, excessively impatient, so their actions lack perseverance and their keenness will become blunted. On the other hand, if people are always soft, they will vacillate, fearful and ineffective, being too weak to succeed in their tasks. That softness is useless.

If people can be firm in decision and flexible in gradual application, neither hurrying nor lagging, neither aggressive nor weak, then hardness and softness balance each other; achieving balance and harmony, they will benefit wherever they go. If they study the Do in this way, eventually they will surely understand the Do; if they practice the Do in this way, eventually they will surely realize the Do. [Adapted from “The Taoist I Ching”, Cleary translation, p. 18]

Fullness and Emptiness

In order to cultivate one’s Moo Do Jaseh, it is important to let go of certain things. This is apparent in the concepts of Full and Empty in the Moo Do tradition. Western cultures often view the concept of Emptiness as a bad thing, as a negative. The idea is that we must keep on  filling up, string for more, attaining more. But in the Moo Do philosophy, being Full or at the top means that there is only one way to go. Being Full carries a signal of danger, of caution, of the need to let go and regroup lest one fall abruptly.

Thousands of years ago, Lao Tzu wrote about excessive “Fullness” in the Tao Te Ching:

Contraction pulls at that which extends too much
Weakness pulls at that which strengthens too much
Ruin pulls at that which rises too high
Loss pulls at life when you fill it with too much stuff
Verse 36

Full and Empty are another aspect of Um and Yang. One must breath in so that one breathes out. You cannot have one without the other. When you are Empty, you breath in, take in, have space to learn and grow. When you are Full, you breathe out, let go, release. This is natural.

In order to give our Maum room to express itself, we must empty our cup. This is often expressed as “emptying the mind and filling the belly”.

Thus the sage rules by stilling minds and opening hearts by filling bellies and strengthening bones (Verse 3)

This refers to the process of emptying the normal busy mind and nourishing the “Mind of Do”.

“Emptying the mind and filling the belly” also refers to the process of Spiritual Breathing. We nourish Maum by emptying our mundane busy mind and “opening our hearts” to allow the breath of Maum to express itself. When the mind is quiet and the heart is open, the Spiritual Breath awakens to “Fill the belly and strengthen the bones” (nourish and support us).

Spiritual Breathing is a constant filling and emptying. Shil-Huh. Filling-Emptying. Shil, or filling, is a function of Um. Through Shil, we fill our bellies with the Spiritual Breath. We empty through Huh. Um sets up the process. How much we fill up (Um) determines the amount of Yang Ki we will have available.

Refining this process over time–emptying that which no longer serves us, filling our bellies with the Mind of Do, leads us to Duk or the Path of Virtue.

Duk: The Path of Virtue

The process of aligning oneself with the Do is called “Duk” (“Te” in Chinese). Doduk (or Tao Te” as in the Tao Te Ching), means the Way of Virtue or morality. This is the Path that leads to the ultimate unity of Do. The Tao Te Ching describes the relationship between Do and Duk:

Do gives all things life Duk gives them fulfillment….
Every creature honors Do and worships Duk not by force but through its own living and breathing.
Though Do gives life to all things Duk is what cultivates them
Duk is that magic power that raises and rears them completes and prepares them comforts and protects them
(Verse 51)

Everything unifies (Shim Kong, Nae Kong, and Weh Kong) through Duk. Duk is the “How” of our practice. How we set up our Moo Do Jaseh.

Live in accordance with the nature of things:
Build your house on solid ground
Keep your mind still
When giving, be kind
When speaking, be truthful
When ruling, be just
When working be one-pointed
When activing, remember–timing is everything
One who lives in accordance with nature
Does not go against the way of things
He moves in harmony with the present moment
Always knowing the truth of just what to do.
(Verse 8)

When our Moo Do Jaseh is guided by Duk, all aspects of our being become harmonious and unified. Through this unification we have an actual experience of the Do. It is through this unification that we develop the discrimination to determine exactly what is required at any given moment.


Moo Do Jaseh is an expression of how we approach our art, of our individual Moo Do values. When Moo Do Jaseh is set up properly at the beginning, in alignment with Maum, we prepare ourselves to experience and align with the Do. We do this through Duk, the Way of Virtue and the Spiritual Breath. Once we have emptied our cup and are receptive to the instructions of the Maum, Duk guides us toward the unification of Maum and Mome. That is the Do.

Written by Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim — TAC Shim Kong Bu
Posted at the request of the author.

Role of Ship Sam Seh in the Art

The Ship Sam Seh was an integral part of the evolution of the art of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. The Ship Sam Seh is a systematic approach to the art of Tae Kuk Kwon, teaching self defense theory through the practice of Hyung. Within the Tae Kuk Kwon hyung, you can find all of the points of Ship Sam Seh. It’s important to note that Ship Sam Seh philosophy goes beyond physical training and includes Weh Gong, Neh Gong, and Shim Gong aspects. The scope of this article will look primarily at the Weh Gong application of Ship Sam Seh and how it affected the evolution of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan in Hyung and Dae Ryun practice. First, we examine the history of Ship Sam Seh.

Historical Context

Ship_Sam_SehThroughout all of history, man has tried to understand the workings of the universe and his relationship with both Heaven and Earth. One of the earliest texts dedicated to the study of nature and the relationship between the elements is the I Ching 易經 (Ju Yuk in Korean). The I Ching represents the world via 64 sets of of six lines each called hexagrams (卦 gwe). The Solid line —– represents Yang and a broken line — — represents Um. The interactions between the solid lines (yang) and the broken lines (um) were represented by the Um and Yang symbol, called Tae Kuk (太極), meaning Grand Ultimate. I equate the teachings of I Ching to simply mean Um/Yang Philosophy.

In ancient Korea, the traditional Um/Yang symbol had three distinct sections instead of two: heaven, earth and human. These people deduced that whenever two forces opposed one another one of two things would happen: one force would
dominate the other, thus one would be superior and the other inferior; or the two forces would be equal, becoming neutral. They examined how the forces of Um and Yang impacted Humanity. This is the essence of I Ching. Everything around us has an opposite: hot and cold, high and low, summer and winter, fire and water. Um energy is soft, yielding and passive. Yang is hard, aggressive and active. Striking a balance between Um and Yang energies would result in Tae Guk or Grand Ultimate. Tae Guk is a state of neutrality where perfect harmony exists. Energies naturally flow from yang to um and back to yang effortlessly. Neither force dominates the other.

Western minds think in a linear fashion with a beginning and multiple steps leading to an end. Conversely, Eastern thought can be illustrated better by a circle. There is neither a beginning nor an end but a circle filled with a number of phases, each leading in both directions to another. An example that can be found in both Western and Eastern culture is the concept of the “circle of life”. Initially, you may think of life as a straight line beginning with birth (yang) and ending in death (um). However, after we die, our bodies return to the earth and give nutrients to the soil to produce more life (yang), which will eventually produce more death (um). This endless circle is an example of how nature is constantly flowing from Yang to Um energy.

Daoism and the martial arts

This Um/Yang philosophy can be found in many aspect of Korean culture from the way that they eat, build a home, divinate, or even fight (kwon bup). The variation of Um/Yang philosophy that correlates with kwon bup is known as Ship Sam Seh (13 Principles/Influences/Postures), though the application is much more holistic than mere “fist techniques” (8).

Most scholars agree that the martial arts from Japan, Okinawa, and Korea all stem from China. Where there may be documentation of Chinese martial arts beginning before the Shaolin Temple, we can agree that Shaolin is the most famous. There is also some evidence that shows that the indigineous Korean martial art Soo Bahk was created in isolation of Chinese influence. While that may or may not be true, Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja received most of his formal training in China and was heavily influenced by Chinese styles such as So Rim Jang Kwon and Tae Kuk Kwon. As a result, to better understand the impact of Ship Sam Seh on our Art, it’s important for us to take a look into Chinese martial arts.

As early as the first centuries BC, physicians would recommend calisthenic exercises called “daoyin” (導引), which translates to “guiding and pulling.” These were used to both cure and prevent disease and focused on both body movement and breathing techniques. These would strengthen your body and provide rejuvenation by stimulating meridians and improving Ki (氣), or vital energy. An old Zhuangzi quote demonstrates the effectiveness of daoyin:

To pant, to puff, to hail, to sip, to spit out the old breath and draw in the new, practicing bear-hangings and bird-stretchings, longevity his only concern–such is the life favored by the scholar who practices daoyin, the man who nourishes his body, who hopes to live to be as old as Pengzu, for more than eight hundred years.1” 

At the Shaolin Temple and elsewhere, martial arts training was coupled with daoyin exercises for longevity. Some of these exercises are still practiced by Soo Bahk Do practitioners today and can be found in Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja’s Volume I textbook. The first is Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm (八段錦) more commonly known in the martial arts community as Ba Duan Jin, which means 8 level brocade or silk2. The second is Yuk Keun Kyung (易筋經), more commonly known as Yi Jin Jing, translated to Changing Tendons Classic3 . The prior is used to stretch the body while the former is used to strengthen the body. Both circulate Ki, open the meridians, and utilize Um/Yang philosophy. Over time, these Neh Gong exercises became commonplace and the martial arts broadened from a strictly military or self defense focus, to a total wellness system for self defense, internal health, and mental well-being. It’s important to note that Ship Sam Seh has much more than mere martial application, but was primarily used for increased longevity. The Song of Ship Sam Seh asks the question: “What is the main purpose of the martial arts?” The following verse gives the answer: “Rejuvenation and prolonging of life beyond the normal span.”

Tae Kuk Kwon and Ship Sam Seh 

The Ship Sam Seh is broken down into two components, each a representation of Um/Yang Philosophy: Pal Gwe or 8 Forces/Directions and Oh Haeng, or 5 Energies/Elements. They were used as fundamental principle of Tae Kuk Kwon. Though the creator of Tae Kuk Kwon is unknown, many attribute Chang San Feng (張三豐), or Jang Sam Bong in Korean, as thefounder4. In his treatise, the Tae Kuk Kwon Kyung (太極拳經), he introduces Ship Sam Seh5: Peng, Lu, Chi, An,Ts’ai, Lieh, Chou, and K’are equated to the Eight Trigrams.

The first four are the cardinal directions; Ch’ien [South; Heaven],
K’un [North; Earth],
K’an [West; Water], and
Li [East; Fire].
The second four are the four corners:
Sun [Southwest; Wind],
Chen [Northeast; Thunder],
Tui [Southeast; Lake], and
Ken [Northwest; Mountain].
Advance (Chin), Withdraw (T’ui),
Look Left (Tso Ku), Look Right (Yu Pan), and Central Equilibrium (Chung Ting)
are equated to the five elements:
Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth
All together these are termed the Thirteen Postures

Having an understanding of Ship Sam Seh philosophy will teach you how to react to neutralize an attack. If someone attacks high (yang), then counter low (um). If your opponent has a strong straight line (yang), then side-step off of his line (um). There are, however, more strategies than merely Um and Yang. You have only scratched the surface of the possibilities. The Pal Gwe and the Oh Haeng are derivatives of Um/Yang, each having an Um or Yang characteristic, but each is also distinct with its own set of unique attributes.

Pal Gwe

The Pal Gwe, or 8 forces, are connected to the 8 directions on a compass. This shows your positioning in space and the ability to move in the 8 directions by stepping, hopping, lunging, etc. Without stepping, you can also use Pal Gwe on the way you move your mass. This is done by moving your waist: Left, Right, Forward, Backward, Up, Down, Clockwise, Counter clockwise.

Besides physical direction (yang), each Gwe has a specific strategy or technique (um) associated with it that applies directly to dae ryun. Many of the indiviual techniques and strategies can also be found in the Yuk Ro and Chil Sung Hyung. The Sa Jung, or four principle directions, are considered “Yang” and are more aggressive and should be used when there is a greater distance between you and your opponent. The intent of these strategies may include exposing vulnerabilities for counter attacking, redirecting the energy of an attack, creating distance from your opponent, or disrupting your opponent’s center and rendering him off-balance. The table below lists the Sa Jung.

Translation Korean Hanja Gwe Meaning Energy
Ward off Pong Ward off by disrupting center of gravity. Heaven
Roll Back Ri circular, yielding motion Earth
Press Jeh Press or squeeze offensively. Fire
Push Ahn Push with the palms. Water

The Sa Wu, or intermediary directions, are “Um” in nature and are designed for in-close fighting. In-close fighting has a new set of challenges and opportunities. You can trap, grab, or pull a limb as a counter measure or even as an attack. You can also strike, create distance, or disrupt your opponent’s center. Table 2 lists the Sa Wu.

Korean Hanja Gwe Meaning Energy
Pull Down Chae Grabbing energy, usually followed by a pull. Wind
Split Yul Splits from striking energy Thunder
Elbow Ju Elbow Striking Lake
Shoulder Ko Striking with the full body Mountain

Oh Haeng 

Just as the Um and Yang philosophy was an ancient way of explaining nature, the Oh Haeng was a further attempt to explain more complex forces of nature. The Oh Haeng, or 5 Elements/Energies include: Fire, Water, Wood, Metal and Earth. Each element produces a unique energy (Ki) that can be cultivated for Kwon Bup and for health.

Element Energy Season Color Virtue Emotion Organ
Water Soo Ki Winter Black Respect Fear Kidneys
Wood Mok Ki Sprint Green Kindness Anger Liver
Fire Hwa ki Summer Red Trust Envy Heart
Metal Kum Ki Fall White Honesty Sadness Lungs
Earth Ji Ki Yellow Golden Rule Worry Spleen

The 5 Elements demonstrate two important cycles in nature: the creative cycle and the destructive cycle. Creation occurs in the following order: Water is needed to grow wood, wood ignites to create fire, fire burns the wood which creates ash (earth), metal is extracted from the earth, and water condenses and forms on metal. You can use the creation cycle in many ways:

FiveElementsCycleBalanceImbalance_02_plain.svgRespect > Kindness > Trust > Openness > Honesty > Respect Fear > Anger > Envy > Worry > Sadness > Fear 

The destructive cycle is equally as intuitive:  Water smothers a fireFire melts metalMetal chops wood. Wood breaks up the earthEarth muddies water.  The destructive cycle also holds true:

Respect  >  Trust  >  Honesty  >  Kindness  >  Openness  >  Respect

Fear        >  Envy   >  Sadness  >  Anger      >  Worry        >  Fear

Within the context of Kwon Bup (fist fighting), each element has unique attributes and can be sub-divided by Um (internal) and Yang (external).  The Oh Bo are the 5 Steps—Advance, Retreat, Right, Left, Center—and refers only to direction of movement.  In traditional Ship Sam Seh, the 8 Postures are combined with the 5 Steps so Pong (ward off) could be performed by stepping forward, back, twisting right, twisting left, and maintaining your center.

The internal strategies, called Oh Mal, are much more telling:  Listen, Connect, Adhere, Redirect and Yield.  Table 4 summarizes the Oh Mal.

Element External Internal Meaning
Fire Jin—Advance Chum Listen Hands—Listen with your whole body.
Water Toe—Retreat Yeon Connect with your opponent.  Literally means “Chariots in a row”.  Control your opponent.
Wood Koe–Move Left Jum Adhere, stick to your opponents (sticky hands).
Metal Ban–Move Right Soo Follow and lead as you adhere.  Take control.
Earth Jung– Centered Bujuhang Following

The O Mal, or 5 Strategies, seem to be  a set of ordered instructions on how to face an opponent effectively. Many of these strategies can be found intertwined in the Song of Ship Sam Seh–though the Song of Ship Sam Seh does not discuss Ship Sam Seh directly. The first step is to have good shi sun and “pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty.”  Listening hands has to do with reading your opponent based on his eyes, body movement, stance and breath.  Once you begin to read your opponent, then you try and connect with him.  “Surprising things will happen when you meet your opponent.”  Move in harmony with your opponent so that you move as one entity.  “Pay attention to the slightest change from full to empty”.  This is the beginning of controlling your opponent.

Once you have gained a connection with your opponent, you must maintain it by adhering to him.  This can be done physically through an exercise called “sticky hands” or it could be a mu sang exercise where you maintain a harmonious connection with your partner.  Learn to follow or lead your opponent without aggression.  You will begin to control your opponent without any effort (following) as a result of this connection.  Each strategy seamlessly prepares you for the next strategy.  Unlike the rest of the Oh Haeng and Pal Gwe groupings, these strategies are to be used simultaneously.

The O Mal can be better explained by Yang Ch’eng-fu’s writing of 1930 called Yang Family Forty Chapters:

“Sticking means lifting and raising high; adhering means clinging and attachment; connecting means giving up yourself and not separating from the opponent; and following means that I respond to my opponent’s movements.”

The principles of Ship Sam Seh that we have discussed thus far have been neatly packaged into a single form called Tae Kuk Kwon. Tae Kuk is the name for the Um/Yang symbol and Kwon translates to “fist”, or the fist fighting style of Um and Yang. Within the hyung, Pal Gwe and Oh Haeng are expressed. By practicing Tae Kuk Kwon Hyung, one can begin to understand the sparring principles of Tae Kuk Kwon. This same pattern can be found today in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan through hyung practice.

Soo Bahk Do & Ship Sam Seh

Soo Bahk Do also has a set of Hyung that we use as guiding principles into our art. These are the hyung created by Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja called Chil Sung Hyung, Yuk Ro Hyung, and Hwa Sun Hyung. It’s also interesting to note that there is another set called Ship Dan Kuhm that are not widely practiced.

After practicing the hyung, we extrapolate sparring concepts and apply them to Ja Yu Dae Ryun. Modern-day examples include Hwa Kuk Jang Kap Kwon and Peet Cha Gi. Even today, we are in the process of evolution as the USA TAC define a new way of sparring at the US National Festival that better demonstrates our philosophy of Um/Yang, connection, and unique Soo Bahk Do technique. This new sparring format better aligns with the principles we learn in our unique hyung.

Though we do not practice all of the 8 postures of Tae Kuk Kwon, many of the principles are the same.

Chain of Command

Soo Bahk Do is known for it’s unique Use of Hip and clear understanding of chain of command from your mind, to your waist, elbows/knees, to each weapon on your hand and foot. Today, we reference Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (F=ma) to explain the concept scientifically, but the application is the same. This principle is integral in Tae Kuk Kwon and is taught side by side with Ship Sam Seh. Jang Sam Bong, the legendary founder of Tae Kuk Kwon wrote a treatise on Tae Kuk Kwon, called the Tae Kuk Kwon Kyung. Within the text, he prefaced his explanation of Ship Sam Seh by explaining chain of command7:

“Let the postures be without breaks or holes, hollows or projections, or discontinuities and continuities of form. The motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifested through the fingers. The feet, legs, and waist must act together simultaneously, so that while stepping forward or back the timing and position are correct. If the timing and position are not correct, the body becomes disordered, and the defect must be sought in the legs and waist.”

Centuries later, The Song of Ship Sam Seh was written that alluded to these same principles with the following quotes:

“The source of the will is in the waist.”
“When the base of the spine is erect, energy rises to the top of the head”

8 Ways of Moving the Huri

Pal Gwe, or the 8 directions, can be likened to the 8 different ways of moving your center: front, back, up, down, right, left, twisting clockwise, twisting counter clockwise. I’ve found that every technique incorporates one or more of these directions. Ahp Cha Gi is primarily front. Dullryo Cha Gi utilizes front and twisting  with the direction depending on which foot is kicking. Hu Gul Choong Dan Soo Do Mahkee includes twisting, back, and down.

Applying Oh Bo (5 Steps) to Soo Bahk Do “postures”

As the mass moves in the 8 various directions using Soo Bahk Do techniques or “postures”, we can also apply the 5 steps. We attack generally by moving forward and defend by moving back. Oftentimes, a better defense is to step left or right into what we call a “sidestep.” The term “bujuhang” is of particular interest because it can mean non-aggression. This is done traditionally by standing your ground and yielding to an attack without necessarily using footwork.

Bujuhang (following without aggression)

Bujuhang is a great way to summarize our philosophy towards sparring. Our blocks are very yielding and receptive in nature. We prefer to receive or redirect energy rather than attempt to stop or destroy it. Our focus on side stepping and creating distance from the attack are ways that we prefer to not oppose a force. A good example of this is the application of Do Mal Shik E Bon against a high attack.

Harmony of Um and Yang (Tae Kuk)

Our sparring is very unique with the purpose of creating harmony with a partner rather than creating conflict. This is a result of moving and responding according to the laws of nature. When one is offensive, the other is defensive. Clashing is discouraged as this creates disharmony by both parties moving offensively simultaneously. As discussed above, our blocks are truly “Um” in nature, receptive rather than aggressive. Most self defense systems portray a defense as an opportunity for offense and the block is done in an aggressive fashion. This is contrary to the laws of Um and Yang. Though our techniques are primarily from Weh Ga Ryu, our philosophy and approach is very Neh Ga Ryu, similar to Tae Kuk Kwon because we follow the same Ship Sam Seh philosophy.

The history of our martial art is richly based in Ship Sam Seh philosophy which centers around the interaction between Um and Yang. The way we move and the way we approach combat is in alignment with Um and Yang. It is clear that Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja greatly valued the Ship Sam Seh and its elements can be found scattered throughout the forms he created. As we continue to better understand Ship Sam Seh and how it relates to our training, the art of Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan continues to evolve based on the principles of Ryu Pa.

Works Cited
Much of this article was a result of my personal readings from the publications below as well as conversations with Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim who gave me many insights into the meaning of Ship Sam Seh, Um Yang, and Chil Sung.

1 Meir, Shahar The Shaolin Monastery 2008 p. 137-140

2 Hwang, Kee, Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) 1992 p. 40

3 Hwang, Kee Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do) 1992 p. 34-37

4 Wile, Douglas Lost Tai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty 1996 p. 108


6 Wilde, Douglas Lost Tai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty 1996 p. 67

7 Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan The Literary Tradition 1979 p.20-21

8Segarra, Dan Secrets of Ship Sam Seh p. 6

*The following article was submitted as a part of my O Dan Shim Sa for the Euro Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Technical Advisory Committee. All of information provided here is based on my own personal research and may not align with the official teachings of the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Federation.

Background of Chil Sung Hyung

peet-cha-gi-brian.pngThe Chil Sung (七 星) Hyung are the prime picture of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. Created in 1952 by Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja (CSJ), Chil Sung Hyung are the hallmark of the art of Soo Bahk Do™. They embody the knowledge Hwang Kee, CSJ acquired from decades of training and study. This essay will discuss the history, meaning, and character of the Chil Sung Hyung.

To fully understand a hyung, it’s important to understand the history of its founder. This provides context and perspective on the form. We begin to understand its unique “Ryu Pa” as you understand the influences that played a part in its creation.

Hwang Kee, CSJ’s training comprised of many martial arts throughout the years. He studied in numerous “Neh Ga (內家)” and “Weh Ga (外家)” systems including So Rim Jang Kwon (少林 拳), Tae Kuk Kwan (太極拳), Dham Doi Sip E Ro (潭腿), Tang Soo Do (唐手道)–Kara Te Do–, and Tae Kyun.

Weh Ga Ryu

Weh Ga Ryu (Outside House Style) in China is mainly recognized  as So Rim Jang Kwon, more commonly known in English as Shaolin Long Fist. It originated in the Buddhist temple at Shaolin. It’s known for it’s intense “ryun bup”, or conditioning of the body and a focus on strong, powerful hand and foot techniques. The long fist techniques are akin to our Hwa Kuk techniques that are found in many of the Chil Sung Hyung. Many of the same techniques– namely Jang Kap Kwon and Jang Kwon Do–can also be found in Dham Doi Sip E Ro, a foundational set of exercises practiced in many Jang Kwan systems.

Weh Ga Ryu techniques are characterized as light, quick, and powerful. Other Weh Ga martial arts that influenced Chil Sung include Tang Soo Do (Kara Te Do), where you will find basic techniques such as Ha Dan Mahkee, Choong Dan Kong Kyuk, and Soo Do Kong Kyuk. One example of Tang Soo Do influence is the sequences in Chil Sung Sam Ro where you turn back up the front of the form line and perform Sang Dan Mahkee/Teul Oh Soo Do, Ahp Cha Gi, lunging Kap Kwon in Kyo Cha Rip Jaseh. This sequence can also be found in Pyong Ahn Sa Dan, which was influenced by Kong Sang Koon. These are both Tang Soo Do hyung.

Neh Ga Ryu

Conversely, Hwang Kee, CSJ studied a Neh Ga (Inside House) system called Tae Kuk Kwon (Tai Chi Chuan) that was created by Chinese nationals and centered around the tenants of Daoism, a religion founded in China by No Ja (Lao Tzu). Not only was it a practical martial art, but also focused on Daoyin(導引), or Daoist calisthenics. These were used for self cultivation and included exercises such as Ba Duan Jin (八段錦), or Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm in Korean, and Yi Jin Jing (易筋经), or Yuk Keun Kyung in Korean. Specific daoyin techniques can be found in some of the Chil Sung Hyung. Chil Sung Sa Ro for example, has the same posture as Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm #4.

Within the Chil Sung Hyung, you will find many techniques influenced by Tae Kuk Kwon as well.  The preparation of the first technique of Chil Sung Il Ro is also the initial movement of Tae Kuk Kwon Hyung, called Pong (掤) or Ward Off. Other obvious Tae Kuk Kwon postures found in Chil Sung Hyung include Press (擠) and Push (按). I imagine after further study, other postures will be more apparent in the Chil Sung Hyung.

 Birth of Choong Gan Ryu

When Hwang Kee, CSJ was translating portions of the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji, he quoted a section comparing Neh Ga Ryu to Weh Ga Ryu. Within the following quote, it’s important to note that Chang Sam Bong (张三丰) is the founder of Tae Kuk Kwon. I have inserted some clarifying text in square brackets to better understand the passage:

“After Chang Sam Bong mastered So Rim Bup [Shaolin Long Fist Style], he founded the Nai Ka [Neh Ga] system. If one can master a few Nai Ka [Neh Ga] techniques he will be victorious over the So Rim practitioner.

It is stated earlier in this text that Nai Ka is more effective than Oi Ka (Weh Ga). The author [Hwang Kee, CSJ] translated these statements from the original text without any alterations. However, he does not necessarily agree with the assertion that Nai Ka can be the conqueror of So Rim after obtaining a few techniques. For practical purposes, we should not neglect the So Rim techniques.”

Here it is apparent that Hwang Kee, CSJ saw value in both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu, and thus created a new system called Choong Gan, or Middle Way. The Chil Sung Hyung have characteristics of both Neh Ga and Weh Ga. Some techniques are light, fast, and powerful, where others focus more on breath, energy, heaviness, and Sun Sok Mi (line, speed, beauty) and we transition from one to the other with ease.

Having both elements of Neh Ga and Weh Ga, the Chil Sung forms are truly representative of Hwang Kee, CSJ’s Choong Gan Ryu, leveraging the advantages of both philosophies of thought. Within the Chil Sung Hyung, however, you will find some techniques that neither fit the traditional mold of Neh Ga or Weh Ga. These are uniquely Soo Bahk and come directly from the Kwon Bup section of the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志). The Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji was a war book on enemy war tactics, written by Park Je Ga and Lee Duk Mu during the reign of King Jong Jo,  that included the sword, spear, staff, and even open hand called Kwon Bup (拳法), or Fist Method. The book had a diagram of a two-person form and had pages of text explaining various training methods and postures such as Yuk Ro and Ship Dan Kuhm.

Some of these training methods and postures can be found in Chil Sung Hyung such as Ta Ko Shik (beating drum method), Po Wol Seh (Embrace the Moon Posture), etc.

A Guide for the Art

From the complexity of the Chil Sung Hyung, it is apparent that the Chil Sung Hyung series is a compilation of Hwang Kee, CSJ’s knowledge throughout his life and a guide to understand his intentions for the art, combining the best practices of both Neh Ga Ryu and Weh Ga Ryu into his unique Choong Gan style. This line of thinking is further substantiated by understanding the name itself. Chil Sung means 7 Stars and it is often stated that these 7 Stars reference Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper. The 7th Star is Polaris, the North Star, which was used as a guide for travelers to find their way. This is used as a metaphor that we can use the Chil Sung forms to guide our training in Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. It is through these forms that we can feel the essence of the Art.

As I practice 6 of the 7 Chil Sung Hyung, a set of themes are apparent that teach fundamental concepts of the Art:

  • Chil Sung Il Ro – This hyung introduces Neh Gong techniques and allows us to focus on connection between your breath and chain of command throughout the technique. Earth Energy (Ji Ki) is a significant factor in the hyung.
  • Chil Sung E Ro – This hyung is the most basic and closest in style to the traditional hyung of Tang Soo Do. The focus is on balance and Ki Seh, or poise.
  • Chil Sung Sam Ro – The hyung is very active in nature, similar in energy to Bassai. It is through this hyung that many of the Soo Bahk Ki Cho are practiced such as Do Mal Shik, Ta Ko Shik, and Yo Shik.
  • Chil Sung Sa Ro – This is a physically demanding hyung with a clear emphasis on Shin Chook which translates to Relaxation and Tension but is also closely aligned with expansion and contraction.
  • Chil Sung O Ro – No other hyung allows you to more easily carry the energy from one movement to the next. It is through this hyung that you can learn to keep your arm full of energy (Ki).
  • Chil Sung Yuk Ro – Chil Sung Yuk Ro is by far the most complex of the six. Like Chil Sung O Ro, energy carries from one technique to the next. What I find unique in this hyung is the diversity of movements and a better understanding of space. You will find techniques on the ground, standing, in the air, spinning, and jump spinning.

Chil Sung Chul Hak

If we look deeper into the true meaning of Chil Sung, one must understand Korean culture and philosophy. Chil Sung is a well known term and Chil Sung monuments can be seen throughout Korea. Jang, Dae Kyu, Sa Bom Nim taught me on multiple occassions that Chil Sung is used in Korean daily life to understand the balance of nature and to provide physical health and total well-being.

Chil Sung is a composite of Tae Guk (太極), or Um/Yang, plus O Haeng (五行), or 5 Elements or Energies .  The Um Yang is the red and blue symbol found on the South Korean Korean flag. Oh Haeng represents the 5 elements:  Wood, Metal, Fire, Water, and Earth.  Everything in our world are manifestations of Chil Sung and through careful study, we can find elements of Chil Sung throughout our training and also in our daily life.

Applying the Weh Gong approach to Chil Sung philosophy will add richness to practicing Chil Sung Hyung. Throughout each hyung, the transitions from Um and Yang techniques are apparent and fulfilling. Chil Sung Il Ro is a prime example of going through slow, internal techniques, to quick and powerful techniques. One example of including O Haeng in your training is to incorporate the Yuk Ja Gyol (六字訣), or 6 Natural Sounds. These sounds will help each technique harness a distinct type of energy and feeling. There are also health benefits correlated to various internal organs as shown below:

Sound Element/Energy Organ
Shuuuu Wood Liver
Haaaa Fire Heart
Whooo Earth Spleen
Tsssss Metal Lungs
Fuuu Water Kidney
Heeeee Neutral Triple Warmer

As we delve deeper into Chil Sung Philosophy, we’ll find additional benefits of training Chil Sung Hyung and acquire a more profound understanding of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™.

In my opinion, Hwang Kee, CSJ’s culminating creation within the art of Soo Bahk Do™ is the Chil Sung Hyung. No other set of forms better exemplify all aspects of the art of Soo Bahk Do™ Moo Duk Kwan™. They truly are a guide with deep historical and practical significance.

*The following article was submitted as a part of my O Dan Shim Sa for the Euro Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Technical Advisory Committee. All of information provided here is based on my own personal research and may not align with the official teachings of the US Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan™ Federation.


Hwang, Kee, History of the Moo Duk Kwan, 1995, p. 14
Tang Soo Do (唐手道) is a generic term that means “Way of the China Hand”. Pronounced “Kara Te” in Japanese, this was a term that the Korean people recognized in the early and mid 20th Century. Tang Soo Do today is known across the world as a generic term for those who have a historical connection to Hwang Kee, Chang Shi Ja. In this paper, I use the term Tang Soo Do in its original context, of Japanese Karate that came from the Ryukyu Island of Okinawa, which in turn came from China during the “Tang” Dynasty.
Shahar, Meir, The Shaolin Monastery, 2008, p. 137-138
Hwang, Kee, Tang Soo Do (Soo Bahk Do), 1992, p. 85

The Purpose of Soo Bahk Do

Below is an article that was presented during this year’s Nationals at the beginning of the event.  This year’s theme is Moo Do Jaseh and this article gives a description of what that is and what the true purpose of our art is.  This article was researched by D.K. Jang Sa Bom Nim.  Earlier this year, I went to Santa Barbara and Sa Bom Nim Jang dictated his research to me and I compiled it into essay form.  This final copy was reviewed by Sa Bom Nim Jang and approved.  All of the beautiful calligraphy was written by Sa Bom Nim Jang.

The Purpose of Soo Bahk Do

Soo Bahk Do is our moo do, or martial art. The “art”, or “Do”, is a language of the spirit and body, therefore, “moo do” is our language of spirit and body through martial training. It’s not what moo do is that’s important, but how we express it that matters.

Many practitioners believe Soo Bahk Do translates to “hand strike way”. This is an inaccurate translation and does little to describe our art by labeling it as merely a form of attack. Soo Bahk Do is not defined as a method to strike with the hands, rather Soo Bahk Do is a tool to strengthen our spiritual and physical language and improve overall personal well-being.


Seal Script for the term Soo Bahk Do. Figure 1.

The term “Soo” does mean “hand” but the hand is a representation of the human body. Look at Figure 1 to see the seal script for the term “Soo” (Seal script is an older style of Chinese writing and the first writing style that used the term Soo Bahk). It is a representation of the human body with a head, spinal cord, and tail (tailbone). The two horizontal lines symbolize the arms and legs. Placing a real hand upside down, each finger represents one of the 5 main branches of the nervous system:



  1. The middle finger represents the spine.
  2. The index and ring fingers represent the legs.
  3. The thumb and little finger represents the arms.

The term “Bahk” has many meanings including to tangle, twist, turn over, pound, or change. An example would be a farmer turning over the soil which is a form of cultivating the earth. Another example would be a smith who works with metal by pounding and folding it to produce something of value. Every translation has one thing in common: Bahk is a term to improve or cultivate. The symbol on the left is the same symbol for “Soo” showing a human change. Just as a farmer and smith put forth tremendous effort and hard work to achieve the desired result, we as Moo Do In (Martial Art Practitioners) must give sincere effort as well. Physical cultivation will only come after intense physical conditioning as you pound, twist, and change your body. The same process is required for a spiritual change. Only after you are exposed to life’s challenges and successfully overcome them by choosing the path of virtue can you achieve spiritual refinement.

“Do” is an abstract term that is roughly translated as a spiritual way or path. The left side of the character signifies a road or path and the right side stands for head. Do can be expressed and observed through our actions.

Therefore, Soo Bahk Do really means the way of the art of human well-being. Our destination is to improve every aspect of the self. We need to keep every part of our self healthy. There are three distinct areas that we should concentrate to improve:

  1. Our skin, muscles, and bones relate to our external, physical health. In order to strengthen our body, we need to apply a scientific method. This is accomplished in the do-jang as we improve our strength, endurance, flexibility, and technique. We strengthen and improve our physical body through Weh-Kong.
  2. Our internal health relates to how we eat, sleep, and breathe. Training in both Moo Pahl Dan Kuhm and Moon Pahl Dan Kuhm (Standing and Sitting 8 Pieces Brocade) will improve the health of the internal organs through Ki-Kong breathing and an understanding of O-Haeng. Our internal health is closely coupled with O-Haeng, O-Ki, and the related 5 internal organs: Kidney, Liver, Heart, Lung, and Spleen. Regretably, few Moo Do In understand the relationships of O-Haeng, but is a vital component to the training of Nae-Kong 內功 (sincere internal effort).
  3. Our spirit, or ma’ulm, relates to our heart or soul. It is not intellectual, but spiritual. Enhanced intellect is only beneficial as long as it is applied to cultivate one of these three distinct areas: Weh-Kong, Neh-Kong, or Shim-Kong. The value of the 8 Key Concepts, for example, is much more than a standard for improved martial technique. Courage, concentration, endurance, honesty, humility, and others are principles that need to be engraven in your ma’ulm, and revealed in your every action—both in and out of the do-jang. This is Shim-Kong 心 功 (sincere spiritual effort) training.

All three work together to find well-being. The composite gives us good health and longevity. Soo Bahk Do is the vehicle to improve each of these three aspects of our selves and that is the purpose of Soo Bahk Do.

Kohn Kyung means sincere effort. In order to improve yourself in these three areas, it’s important that you have sincere effort. Kong 功is another term that translates to effort and is the basis for the terms Shim-Kong, Nae-Kong, and Weh-Kong. Only by exercising sincere effort in cultivating the soul, breath and internal organs, and the physical body, will a Soo Bahk Do practitioner succeed in the purpose of Soo Bahk Do.

Soo Bahk Do gives us various tools to accomplish its purpose of “rejuvenation and prolonging of life beyond the normal span”:

  • Um Yang is balance, which stands for harmony.
  • Ship Sam Seh which comprises Pal Gwe and Oh Haeng (not to be confused with the Song of Ship Sam Seh).
  • Chil Sung
  • Yuk Ro (pronounced Yoong-no)

Each of these is an important tool, or asset needed to be connected to the history, culture, and philosophy of Soo Bahk Do. They are much more than mere lists or terms to memorize, but have great significance and application in your moo do training in and out of the dojang. If you cannot apply these principles in both your training and personal life, you cannot connect to the art. As the Song of Ship Sam Seh states: “Failing to follow [these principles] attentively, you will sigh away your time.”

Do Jang & Do Bok

Do Jang
Calligraphy for Do Jang. Figure 2.

The Do-jang is the place where we train Soo Bahk Do. Not so long ago, nature was the dojang since there were no formal dojangs with beautiful, painted walls; soft mats or polished wood floors; modern kicking bags and plush targets; or air conditioning and heating. The dojang was outside with whatever conditions Nature was willing to give you.

Even then, there was still a sense of do-jang, called do ryang, which is a Buddhist term. In Buddhism, outside of the main temple structure, there was a do ryang, or place of awakening. Traditionally, the monks would clean the dirt around the do ryang before they became monks. This was a way for them to clean their ma’ulm and connect with the Buddha.

The term do-jang comes after World War II where formal structures were erected called do-jang. “Jang” janghas two parts. The first is “place” place and the second is “change” change. Do-jang is the place to change your “do” or your “ma’ulm”. See figure 2 for the calligraphy. It is the place to cultivate your soul and improve self well-being through sincere effort in Weh-Kong, Nae-Kong, and Shim-Kong training. It is not just a place to memorize your forms or learn new martial techniques. Both of these are additional tools used to improve the self.

Calligraphy for Do Bok. Figure 3.

In the do-jang, we need to wear do-bok. Do-bok means wearing your soul (ma’ulm). When we wear our do-bok in the do-jang, we are reminded that we are here to try and change and improve our ma’ulm and that my ma’ulm is visible to others through my actions. The way you put on your do-bok or the way you care for your do-bok will say much about your ma’ulm.


Moo Do Jaseh

The physical expression of Soo Bahk Do is moo do jaseh. We know that moo do is a language (spiritual or physical language). Jaseh is a posture. We need a good posture of both physical and spiritual. Ja means manner and beauty. Seh means aspect or strength.
mannerManner (Ja) means:

  1. A way of doing something or the way in which something is done or happens.
  2. A way of acting, bearing, or behavior.
  3. Socially correct way of acting.

aspectAspect (Seh) means:

  1. A way that something can be viewed by the mind.
  2. Appearance to the eye.


Moo Do Jaseh
Calligraphy for Moo Do Jaseh. Figure 4.

Moo Do Jaseh is a physical manifestation of your ma’ulm. Therefore, the way you perform the moo do jaseh will determine how close you are to the art of Soo Bahk Do. The way you present a Chun Gul Jaseh, for example, is a manifestation of your ma’ulm. Likewise, the way you wear your do bok will say a lot about who you are as a person. A dirty, wrinkled do bok will tell a different story than a clean, crisp one. Moo Do Jaseh is everything in our training including the way you tie your belt and the way you communicate with your juniors, seniors, and the general public. Moo Do Jaseh is manifested through your walk, your tone of voice, your words, and your actions.

From a spiritual perspective, all ethical behavior is proper moo do jaseh and can be summarized by the term Duk Haeng—Virtuous Action. Moo Do Jaseh should be made manifest in our every action. If this is the case, then every action will reflect our philosophy. As we practice and become accustomed to acting with proper Moo Do Jaseh, everything we do becomes ceremonious, not as a result of vain repetition, but as a result of sincere, consistent, and natural effort. Actions become ceremony as we tie our belt, ironing our do bok, clean the dojang, and help each other. When all of these things become ceremonial, you become more than a martial artist. You become an artisan of Soo Bahk Do. The art defines you and you contribute to the definition of the art. When you become an artisan, everything you do becomes a serenading stage, full of beauty. This is true mastery.

Soo Bahk Do and Moo Duk Kwan

Soo Bahk Do is more than just an activity to learn to get in shape and practice self defense techniques. It is a set of Korean principles that are available to help better ourselves and those around us. True moo do comes from seeking to learn and to apply these principles and then sharing these ideologies amongst each other as those before us have done in order to preserve this legacy of learning. The Moo Duk Kwan is an organization founded by the late founder, Grandmaster Hwang Kee to do just that. It facilitates the movement of ideas and principles and allows us to connect with people of similar passion. Our Moo Duk Kwan pride should come from our proper application of Moo Do Jaseh in our members, which will make a positive change in the societies in which they live.

Download PDF version.

Jang Sa Bom Nim and Chil Sung Philosophy

The last week of December, my family and I traveled to Santa Barbara, CA to visit Helena’s grandma. There I trained with Jang Sa Bom Nim, who I highly respect and admire as a martial artist and a high-level person. Not only is he a master of Soo Bahk Do, but he is also a master calligrapher, who got his training in Korea. Below, you will see a beautiful piece of calligraphy on the left and a scroll on the right.


The scroll has the characters that denote “sincerity” and the writing on the far left means roughly all things come from the heart, which is the meaning of sincerity.

The fan has special significance to me.  The whole fan is symbolic of Chil Sung, which is Jang Sa Bom Nim’s expertise.  Chil Sung is a term well-known to Soo Bahk Do practitioners, especially dan members.  It is a set of forms that are unique to our system.  The direct translation means 7 stars, which refer to the 7 stars of the big dipper.  These set of forms are our guide in Soo Bahk Do much like the Big Dipper was a guide for sailors.


For most of my life, that was the complete meaning of Chil Sung.  Apparently, Chil Sung is a term richly engrained in Korean culture.  Chil Sung is a composite of Tae Guk (Um/Yang) plus O Haeng (5 Elements) .  The Um Yang is the red and blue symbol found on the Korean flag and are located on the far right side of the fan.  In the center of the fan, you’ll see 5 symbols, represening the 5 elements:  Wood, Metal, Fire, Water, and Earth.  Earth is the center symbol in Yellow, which also represents the Golden Mean.  Everything in our world are manifestations of Chil Sung and through careful study, we can find elements of Chil Sung throughout our training and also in our daily life.

Perhaps in time, I’ll write a little more about Chil Sung Philosophy.  I’d be interested to know if there are many people out there who would be interested in further information on the subject.  I know I am.

History & Characteristics of Po Wol

            Yuk Ro Sam Dan, most commonly referred to as Po Wol, is the third hyung in the Yuk Ro (pronounced Yoong-no) series created by Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee.  These forms were inspired by Kwan Jang Nim’s study of the ancient Korean martial arts text Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (武藝圖譜通志), written by Park Je Ga and Lee Duk Mu during the reign of King Jong Jo 300 years ago. 

            To understand the characteristics of Po Wol, and the Yuk Ro Hyungs in general, it is important to understand the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji (MYDBTJ) and the personal martial arts history of the form’s creator, Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee.  We begin with an examination of the writings in the Moo Yei Do Bo Tong Ji:

There is what is known as Yun Soo in the training methods, consisting of thirty five training methods and eighteen types of footwork. They were classified into six paths (Yuk Ro) and Ten level exercises (Ship Dan Khum). The six paths include: Woo Shin Tong Bu Choi Wee Go, Doo Mun Shim Shwe Jun Yung Ho, Seo nin Ip Ki Jo chunse, San chul Pyowol Bulsangyo, Yang pyun Joawoo Innankup, and Sal chu chingro Yang shiyo”

            The Yuk Ro (six paths) are what inspired the Yuk Ro Hyung series.  The fourth path, San Chul Pyowol Bulsangyo (撒出抱月相饒), can be translated as “remove, exit and embrace the moon, we mutually keep each other at bay.”  This is the path that influenced the creation of Po Wol Hyung.  Po Wol (抱月) signifies embrace the moon.

            Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee was an extremely creative and brilliant man, who had a firm understanding of the martial arts and of Ship Sam Seh philosophy that helped in the formation of the Yuk Ro Hyung.  After translating the MYDBTJ, he used his knowledge of the martial arts to create a set of forms that could preserve what was left of the Yuk Ro.  He used what information was available about the Yuk Ro and incorporated it in the forms.  To piece it all together, he used the knowledge he had gained from other sources, including Dham Doi Ship E Ro, whose influence can be seen in the Yuk Ro series, including Po Wol.  An example would be the Jang Kap Kwon and Jang Kwon Do techniques. 

            The signature technique of Po Wol is po wol seh, or embrace the moon method.  This technique was most likely derived from the MYDBTJ and is the central piece of the hyung.  Within this one movement, the energy and spirit of Po Wol Hyung is defined.

The energy, spirit, and intent of this form should be a sense of receiving and embracing energy with a relaxed, fixed center.  Just as the moon is representative of um, so too Po Wol Hyung should represent a softer side of training. 

Within Po Wol Hyung, the Ship Sam Seh philosophy is very apparent.  Earlier, there was mention of how wol, or moon, is symbolic of um energy.  The earth also symbolizes an um energy, which is a component of the O Heng (5 elements).  The O Heng is broken down into two sections:  External Steps and Internal Strategies.  The step for earth is jung ()  which means to stay centered.  We can apply this principle by applying a solid stance and working on being still.  The internal strategy for earth is  Boo Joo Hang (不丟頂), which translates to non-opposing force.  By not opposing the force of an opponent, control can be obtained.  Boo Joo Hang and Jung make up the central characteristic of po wol seh.  In performing the technique, we receive an attack by maintaining a centered stance and embracing the energy without opposition. 

            By concentrating on po wol seh, the feeling of jung and boo joo hang is carried throughout the form with relaxed, embracing energy.  This is the way to reach a greater understanding of some of the Ship Sam Seh principles Kwan Jang Nim embraced.